Instead of specifics about what exercises to do, or what plans to follow, or how to set goals, I believe that the focus needs to lie in a practice of knowing where you are in your mind and body on any given day. So whether you are in the middle of a global pandemic (as we are as of May 28, 2020) trying to find new ways to exercise with gyms closed, working on bettering our own fitness level, or just starting out with any kind of movement practice, I believe applying these three concepts can help create a better "health mentality."
Literally, take a breath. Feel the inhale, and feel the exhale. In yoga, the practice of breathing is called Pranayama, and it has as much importance in yoga as the poses, and as the meditation. We can go without food and water for far longer periods than we can without breath. Each inhale and exhale changes our blood pressure, our blood pH level, and stimulates different aspects of our nervous system.
If we take the time to put a pause between what we observe happening in our lives, and how we react to them, we give ourselves an opportunity to act with more forethought, more compassion, more mindfulness, and less regret.
When we take a long exhale, we immediately destress. Our heart rate slows, tension leaves our shoulders, our bellies relax. Deeper inhales can awaken the body and refresh. Longer exhales balance the body's CO2 levels; we get a chance to exercise the lungs, the diaphragm, and the intercostal muscles between the ribs.
Breathing is fundamental. Breath is life.
Try an activity that works for you. Yoga, walking, pilates, cycling, zumba, barre; try something. Try something new if you feel that you are in a rut. Some people crave routine, going to gym or same class ever day at the same time every week.
As of the writing of this post, we have all been unable to continue with our regular routines. Even I was not a fan of "online yoga" classes because I did not like doing videos by myself. But with the plethora of live online classes, and needing to move, not only did I start teaching online classes but taking them as well. I also starting watching pre-recorded videos to find out which ones might be worth keeping in the tool belt for when I'm unable in the future to get to a live class.
The point is that we need to try, rather than begrudge the situation. We never know what curve life will hand you. An injury can drastically change how and what we are able to move, so being open to trying something (new) is imperative.
Trying things that are new and struggling for mastery can be frustrating for those that like a sense of success. So I offer the idea that the trying is the success. Expectations for mastery are rooted in ego (pride). Practice is the tool by which we improve, and perfection is an illusion.
The wonderful thing is, if frustration overwhelms the joy in the attempt, you can try something new again. If at first you don't succeed...
Healthy eating is essential. A poorly nourished body cannot repair itself in times of illness, and the brain cannot function optimally. For the clearest thinking, and in order to give yourself every opportunity for success, not just in fitness, it's imperative to put in the right ingredients and to properly hydrate the body machine every day.
But this isn't just about food and water. Nourishment comes from feeding the mind and the spirit. During this time of social isolation, many dread being alone. Nourishing our need for social interaction and companionship requires creativity. Social media can be used for connecting with friends (rather than reading stressful news). Phone calls versus texts can provide much needed interaction. Online social group meetings, yoga classes, church services even proms have come into fashion to enable introverts and extroverts alike the ability to connect to people outside their own homes. It's commendable how many institutions have embraced technology to bring their communities together.
Nourish your mind with good books, crossword puzzles, music, and dance. Nourish your skin with massage and lotion. Nourish your relationships with and exchange of loving words, or a shared activity. Nourish your spirituality with prayer and meditation.
Try (there's that word again) something new to feed your soul!
We are living in a time of crisis that for me (in my acknowledged privileged situation) is a first. I'm grateful I can sit here in health, with a roof over my head, and type this post. I can't ignore the impact this crisis is having on people I know, so I wrote this hoping that maybe these three tips might offer someone practical information, so they can get through another day, be there for their family and friends, stay healthy so they can go to work, or simply feel strong enought to be a supportive community member.
Even if we weren't being bombarded by health reports and press conferences and worrisome statistics about COVID-19, daily life still has a lot of stress. That's when it's even more important to take a deep breath, try something new, and nourish your spirit. Pause. Sit down. Take 10 slow deep breaths. Decide the next step that feels right. What will it be for you today?